I am a fan of music. Like those who count themselves as such, I believe that music is a “universal language”. It is something that can transcend the boundaries of space, time, race, and gender. But, even as a fan I do not simply enjoy whichever music comes my way. I am somewhat particular with the kind of music I listen to. I have my own taste in it.
I do not enjoy heavy metal, for instance. Or random and nonsensical pop music. I have low tolerance for hiphop and rap. Mostly my reasons are because of the language used in some songs that are degrading to women and are indulgent to the worldly and bodily pleasures that do not mix with what I was taught as a child and the moral compass I am guided by.
I do like country music though–Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift are what headlines my iPod in that genre. I like songs that have meaning, that uplifts and encourages. Which is why my playlist is populated by songs sung by Matthew West, Franchesca Batistelli, Colton Dixon, Chris Tomlin, Steven Curtis Chapman, Mandisa…just to name a few.
Likewise, I love listening to classical music. That may seem like a surprise to some people, but it makes sense if you think about it. I love stories and this type of music tell stories even when there are no actual lyrics to back them up. There is emotion in them–raw and unchained by words–that you can feel which was intended by the composer.
As such, I am no stranger to Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Pachelbel, Antonio Vivaldi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Frederic Francois Chopin. I have heard their compositions and have attempted to even play them on the violin myself. So, when I heard about a particular videogame that is intertwined with Chopin’s life, I immediately went in search for it, bought it, and played it.
That game is none other than Eternal Sonata. Or “Trusty Bell: Chopin’s Dream” as it is called in Japan.
Eternal Sonata–developed by tri-Crescendo and published by Bandai Namco–without divulging anything “spoilerific” follows the adventures of famed composer Frederic Chopin as he travels through his own dream world filled with colorful characters and stunning locales. In a land where music influences both combat and exploration, Chopin sets out on a journey not only of self-discovery, but also one of redemption.
It is an interesting game, to say the least, though it plays as any typical role-playing game would. What shines the most in this game–apart from elements of the plot/story–is the battle system.
Though tactical in nature, it also incorporates elements from action games through the use of the “Action Gauge” which is a sort of timer that forces players to think on their feet. As the story progresses, this “timer” depletes faster in exchange for additional combat capabilities like the Harmonic Chain–where, after building up 24 or more “Harmonies” through attacks, you can make use of, not only your own, but other character’s special attacks in one turn–and the increase in Item Slot from 10 to the eventual, Party Level 6 slots of 50.
So, after playing dozens of hours of this game–playing it thrice (one without a walkthrough, one to make a video walkthrough, and another for the Encore Mode (the New Game+ of Eternal Sonata))–what are my impressions of this game?
Well, to start of, the game reminded me of the graphics of Kingdom Hearts–though the characters are not as “disproportionate” as those in that game and more “anime-ish”. The movement of the characters during cutscenes kind of bothered me as they look awkward and, most of the time, act over-dramatically–although that may have been the intention of the designers of these characters.
The locations in-game are beautifully rendered, considering that this is a pretty old game (released sometime in 2007). No two places look the same. There are confusing dungeons, though. Which is sort of a good and bad thing. It’s a plus since it adds diversity to them and does not make you feel like you’ve been in that dungeon a bunch of times. The negative side of this is that huge areas can end up being confusing, forcing you to go grab a pen and actually draw out the map just so you wouldn’t get lost.
Gameplay-wise, it is fun to play. The battle system in particular. Although, come Encore Mode you may end up being frustrated a bunch of times with how strong the enemies have gotten. One issue I have with the battle system is the Guard and Counter commands which only pop up in-real time as the enemy is attacking or will attack. You have to time your button presses right. And although it may sound easy, it really isn’t. For one thing, even if you have gotten the timing just perfect, guarding and countering enemy attacks might not work. And then there is the issue of the inconsistent span by which you could initiate a guard or a counter.
There is also the sidequests. All of them are missable. Even when you have been granted the ability to teleport to any place you’ve visited in encore mode, chances are–unless you know of these sidequests beforehand–you are going to miss completing them. There are clues–like in one particular sidequest where you end up facing a Pirate Queen–but they are vague and can even be counted as worthless.
Story-and-plot-wise, the entirety of Eternal Sonata is an interesting concept with the premise of “What is going on in Chopin’s head as he is in his deathbed?”. The story is good. Not great. But it does tackle, throughout the course of the game, various social issues that are very much thought provoking. Granted, the story itself is quite confusing and even though they added a secondary ending, people might miss it unless they know of its existence or get pummeled by the final boss of the game.
I also have an issue with one of the final scenes in the game, considering that–if you stop and think about it–with the characters’ ages and all, it shouldn’t have been added. But that’s just my personal opinion and others who’ve played this game might not feel the same.
The good thing about this game though is that, in-between chapters, we are treated to a composition of Chopin’s and a background story for these compositions. I loved these parts because it tells us more about the real Frederic Chopin and what might have been going on in his head as he composed these famous pieces.
Now, the thing I hated most in this game is the English voice acting. Especially Polka’s voice. To say that her’s was annoying would be an understatement. Thankfully, the PS3 version has the Japanese voices and you can easily switch between the american voice acting and the Japanese one through the options menu even as you are in the middle of the game (trust me, you would rather hear their Japanese voices than English ones).
So, how would I rate the game?
|Graphics||3.5/5 (Considering that this is a pretty old game…yeah…)|
|Sound/Music||5/5 (Each area/location has wonderful music to back it up. Some are even inspired by Chopin’s works)|
|Voice Acting||2/5 (for the English VA thanks to Polka)
3.5/5 (for the Japanese VA)
|Gameplay||4.5/5 (I would have given it a perfect 5 had it not been for the Sidequests)|
|Story||4/5 (Confusing, but not as head-spinning as KH)|
|Overall||4.5 (An interesting role-playing game with tons to do…especially when playing the Encore Mode as it unlocks a couple of new places to visit and extra sidequests. Just, stay away from the English VA of the game)|
So, there you have it.
If you are a fan of role-playing video games, then this is one title you shouldn’t pass up. Otherwise, if you are merely curious with the story, then rent this game.
Well, that’s all for now. Have you played this game before? Tell me what you guys thought of it, down at the comment section. If you’re curious about what the game looks like, you can watch my LP/Walkthrough of the game here.
Until the next update, dream on; fly on!